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Posted: September 24
Updated: Today at 12:30 AM

 

Wilkes-Barre adds six new firefighters

City awaiting decision of arbitration board to resolve contract impasse.

BILL O ’ BOYLE boboyle@timesleader.com
 

The ceremony made one city firefighter especially proud.

click image to enlarge
Mayor Tom Leighton congratulates the six new members of the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department after swearing-in ceremonies Thursday morning. From left: George Schatzel, Robert Smith, James Zaremba, Christopher Smith, William Court and Thomas Murphy.

Fire Captain Robert Smith Jr., a 20-year veteran of the city fire department, watched his son – Robert Smith III – take the oath from Mayor Tom Leighton and Fire Chief Jay Delaney – as one of six new firefighters sworn in Thursday, bringing the department to 72 full-time members.

Leighton congratulated all and told them he hopes they don’t “hate me tomorrow.” The city is awaiting a decision of an arbitration board that held hearings this week in City Hall to resolve the current contract impasse between the city and its firefighters. . A decision isn’t expected for weeks. The contract expires at the end of the year.

The new firefighters are: Smith, George Schatzel, James Zaremba, Christopher Smith, William Court, and Thomas Murphy. The beginning annual salary for Wilkes-Barre Fire Department members is $ 40, 928.

“He’s ready,” Captain Smith said of his son. “It’s been a long process; he competed against a lot of other candidates and he did well.”

Smith said he knows from experience that when his son responds to a call he will have an entire department of firefighters who are well-trained who will look out for him.

“There will always be that father-son thing,” Smith said. “But I know he’s capable of doing this job.”

Christine Jensen, the city’s director of human resources, said seven firefighters were to be hired, but one successful candidate declined the appointment.

“It’s too late for us to review the list and come up with another candidate,” Jensen said. “The class at Luzerne County Community College is about to start. Whenever another class is scheduled we will look at hiring another firefighter.”

Five of the six new firefighters will begin training at the LCCC Public Safety Training Institute on Monday to acquire certifications to the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department standards. After this training has been completed, the new firefighters will receive national certification in: Firefighter I and Firefighter II, Hazardous Materials Awareness, and Hazardous Materials Operations.

“These men will certainly have a positive impact on the safety of our residents, the business community, and visitors, but equally important is the additional protection they will provide for sworn firefighters,” Leighton said.

Delaney said the six new firefighters will enhance the department. “The addition of these men will further the safety of all firefighters and residents of the city.”

Bill O’Boyle, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7218.


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